Congressional Record: June 11, 2003 (House)
Page H5249-H5251


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the 
gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, a critical problem that demands constant 
oversight in a democracy is the tension between an informed Congress 
and an informed citizenry because both are necessary for a democracy. 
That tension is against the need for secrecy in some instances and in 
the interest of national security. That is what I wish to draw Members' 
attention to today.
  From Watergate to Iran contra, to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, we 
have seen and experienced and learned from the peril of the executive 
branch's use of secrecy in the name of national security to accomplish 
unlawful deception and illegal acts.
  We face this issue again now in regard to Iraq's weapons of mass 
destruction and the flat assertions by the President of the United 
States that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction pose an 
imminent threat to the United States. After all, it was these 
assertions that led many of the Members of the legislature, both in the 
House of Representatives and in the other body, to support the war, and 
so did many Americans.
  So it is a significant question whether the President's assurance was 
warranted by the evidence, whether he had something to back up these 
repeated assertions that the weapons of mass destruction held by the 
former ruler of Iraq were indeed an imminent threat to the United 
  So where are these weapons of mass destruction? One day the President 
assured us that they will be found. The next day we are told that he 
only meant to claim that Iraq had programs to develop weapons of mass 
destruction, and that program was under way. But then the day after 
that his spokesman said never mind, even if Saddam had no weapons 
imminently threatening us, he was a bad and evil person who deserved to 
be destroyed.
  Now, these contradictions have begun to be noted by more and more 
people, and I want to report that some in the public are changing their 
view about this war and what brought us into it as American casualties 
mount in Iraq, as violence and civilian strife grow worse there, and 
disease and hunger spread in the aftermath of war.
  Now, whatever the ultimate final assessment is that will be made 
about Iraq, the fundamental problem that I bring to Members' attention 
this evening is if the President deceives the Congress and the public 
on an issue as sensitive as war or peace, it raises the greatest 
constitutional issues about whether he is abusing his office, whether 
he is violating his oath, and whether he is misleading the American 

                              {time}  1745

  It is particularly critical because this President's doctrine of 
preventive war, never before employed by any of the preceding 
Presidents of this great country, suggests that he may or will be 
trying to persuade America to support other preventive wars in the 
future. Will that campaign be based on misrepresentation?

Missing Weapons of Mass Destruction: Is Lying About the Reason for War 
                        an Impeachable Offense?

                           (By John W. Dean)

       President George W. Bush has got a very serious problem. 
     Before asking Congress for a Joint Resolution authorizing the 
     use of American military forces in Iraq, he made a

[[Page H5250]]

     number of unequivocal statements about the reason the United 
     States needed to pursue the most radical actions any nation 
     can undertake--acts of war against another nation.
       Now it is clear that many of his statements appear to be 
     false. In the past, Bush's White House has been very good at 
     sweeping ugly issues like this under the carpet, and out of 
     sight. But it is not clear that they will be able to make the 
     question of what happened to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass 
     destruction (WMDs) go away--unless, perhaps, they start 
     another war.
       That seems unlikely. Until the questions surrounding the 
     Iraq war are answered, Congress and the public may strongly 
     resist more of President Bush's warmaking.
       Presidential statements, particularly on matters of 
     national security, are held to an expectation of the highest 
     standard of truthfulness. A president cannot stretch, twist 
     or distort facts and get away with it. President Lyndon 
     Johnson's distortions of the truth about Vietnam forced him 
     to stand down from reelection. President Richard Nixon's 
     false statements about Watergate forced his resignation.
       Frankly, I hope the WMDs are found, for it will end the 
     matter. Clearly, the story of the missing WMDs is far from 
     over. And it is too early, of course, to draw conclusions. 
     But is not too early to explore the relevant issues.

   president bush's statements on iraq's weapons of mass destruction

       Readers may not recall exactly what President Bush said 
     about weapons of mass destruction; I certainly didn't. Thus, 
     I have compiled these statements below. In reviewing them, I 
     saw that he had, indeed, been as explicit and declarative as 
     I had recalled.
       Bush's statements, in chronological order, were:
       ``Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities 
     that were used for the production of biological weapons.''--
     Untied Nations Address, September 12, 2002.
       ``Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and 
     is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those 
       ``We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently 
     authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons--
     the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.''--
     Radio Address, October 5, 2002.
       ``The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical 
     and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.
       ``We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of 
     chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin never gas, VX 
     nerve gas.
       ``We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has 
     a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that 
     could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons 
     across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring 
     ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the United 
       ``The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its 
     nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous 
     meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his 
     ``nuclear mejahideen''--his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite 
     photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at 
     sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. 
     Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes 
     and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are 
     used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.''--Cincinnati, 
     Ohio Speech, October 7, 2002.
       ``Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein 
     had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, 
     mustard and VX nerve agent.''--State of the Union Address, 
     January 28, 2003.
       ``Intelligence gathered by this and other governments 
     leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and 
     conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.''--
     Address to the Nation, March 17, 2003.

           should the president get the benefit of the doubt?

       When these statements were made, Bush's let-me-mince-no-
     words posture was convincing to many Americans. Yet much of 
     the rest of the world, and many other Americans, doubted 
       As Bush's veracity was being debated at the united Nations, 
     it was also being debated on campuses--including those where 
     I happened to be lecturing at the time.
       On several occasions, students asked me the following 
     question: Should they believe the President of the United 
     States? My answer was that they should give the President the 
     benefit of the doubt, for several reason deriving from the 
     usual procedures that have operated in every modern White 
     House and that, I assumed, had to be operating in the Bush 
     White House, too.
       First, I assured the students that these statements had all 
     been carefully considered and crafted. Presidential 
     statements are the result of a process, not a moment's 
     thought. White Hose speechwriters process raw information, 
     and their statements are passed on to senior aides who have 
     both substantive knowledge and political insights. And this 
     all occurs before the statement ever reaches the President 
     for his own review and possible revision.
       Second, I explained that--at least in every White House and 
     administration with which I was familiar, from Truman to 
     Clinton--statements with national security implications 
     were the most carefully considered of all. The White House 
     is aware that, in making these statements, the President 
     is speaking not only to the nation, but also to the world.
       Third, I pointed out to the students, these statements are 
     typically corrected rapidly if they are later found to be 
     false. And in this case, far from backpedaling from the 
     President's more extreme claims, Bush's press secretary, Ari 
     Fleischer had actually, at times, been even more emphatic 
     than the President had. For example, on January 9, 2003, 
     Fleischer stated, during his press briefing, ``We know for a 
     fact that there are weapons there.''
       In addition, others in the Administration were similarly 
     quick to back the President up, in some cases with even more 
     unequivocal statements. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld 
     repeatedly claimed that Saddam had WMDs--and even went so far 
     as to claim he knew ``where they are; they're in the area 
     around Tikrit and Baghdad.''
       Finally, I explained to the students that the political 
     risk was so great that, to me, it was inconceivable that Bush 
     would make these statements if he didn't have damn solid 
     intelligence to back him up. Presidents do not stick their 
     necks out only to have them chopped off by political 
     opponents on an issue as important as this, and if there was 
     any doubt, I suggested, Bush's political advisers would be 
     telling him to hedge. Rather than stating a matter as fact, 
     he would say: ``I have been advised,'' or ``Our intelligence 
     reports strongly suggest,'' or some such similar hedge. But 
     Bush had not done so.
       So what are we now to conclude if Bush's statements are 
     found, indeed, to be as grossly inaccurate as they currently 
     appear to have been?
       After all, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, 
     and given Bush's statements, they should not have been very 
     hard to find--for they existed in large quantities, 
     ``thousands of tons'' of chemical weapons alone. Moreover, 
     according to the statements, telltale facilities, groups of 
     scientists who could testify, and production equipment also 
       So there is all that? And how can we reconcile the White 
     House's unequivocal statements with the fact that they may 
     not exist?
       There are two main possibilities. One that something is 
     seriously wrong within the Bush White House's national 
     security operations. That seems difficult to believe. The 
     other is that the President has deliberately misled the 
     nation, and the world.

  a desperate search for WMDs has so far yielded little, if any, fruit

       Even before formally declaring war against Saddam Hussein's 
     Iraq, the President had dispatched American military special 
     forces into Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, 
     which he knew would provide the primary justification for 
     Operation Freedom. None were found.
       Throughout Operation Freedom's penetration of Iraq and 
     drive toward Baghdad, the search for WMDs continued. None 
     were found.
       As the coalition forces gained control of Iraqi cities and 
     countryside, special search teams were dispatched to look for 
     WMDs. None were found
       During the past two and a half months, according to 
     reliable news reports, military patrols have visited over 300 
     suspected WMD sites throughout Iraq. None of the prohibited 
     weapons were found there.

        british and american press reaction to the missing WMDs

       British Prime Minister Tony Blair is also under serious 
     attack in England, which he dragged into the war unwillingly, 
     based on the missing WMDs. In Britain, the missing WMDs are 
     being treated as scandalous; so far, the reaction in the U.S. 
     has been milder.
       New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has taken Bush 
     sharply to task, asserting that it is ``long past time for 
     this administration to be held accountable.'' ``The public 
     was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat,'' Krugman 
     argued. ``If that claim was fraudulent,'' he continued, ``the 
     selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American 
     political history--worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-
     Contra.'' But most media outlets have reserved judgment as 
     the search for WMDs in Iraq continues.
       Still, signs do not look good. Last week, the Pentagon 
     announced it was shifting its search from looking for WMD 
     sites, to looking for people who can provide leads as to 
     where the missing WMDs might be.
       Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International 
     Security John Bolton, while offering no new evidence, assured 
     Congress that WMDs will indeed be found. And he advised that 
     a new unit called the Iraq Survey Group, composed of some 
     1,400 experts and technicians from around the world, is being 
     deployed to assist in the searching.
       But, as Time magazine reported, the leads are running out. 
     According to Time, the Marine general in charge explained 
     that ``[w]e've been to virtually every ammunition supply 
     point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad,'' and remarked 
     flatly, ``They're simply not there.''
       Perhaps most troubling, the President has failed to provide 
     any explanation of how he could have made his very specific 
     statements, yet now be unable to back them up with supporting 
     evidence. Was there an Iraqi informant thought to be 
     reliable, who turned out not to be? Were satellite photos 
     innocently, if negligently, misinterpreted? Or was his 
     evidence not as solid as he led the world to believe?
       The absence of any explanation for the gap between the 
     statements and reality only increases the sense that the 

[[Page H5251]]

     misstatements may actually have been intentional lies.

            investigating the iraqi war intelligence reports

       Even now, while the jury is still out as to whether 
     intentional misconduct occurred, the President has a serious 
     credibility problem. Newsweek magazine posed the key 
     questions: ``If America has entered a new age of pre-
     emption--when it must strike first because it cannot afford 
     to find out later if terrorists possess nuclear or biological 
     weapons--exact intelligence is critical. How will the United 
     States take out a mad despot or a nuclear bomb hidden in a 
     cave if the CIA can't say for sure where they are? And how 
     will Bush be able to maintain support at home and abroad?''
       In an apparent attempt to bolster the President's 
     credibility, and his own, Secretary Rumsfeld himself has now 
     called for a Defense Department investigation into what went 
     wrong with the pre-war intelligence. New York Times columnist 
     Maureen Dowd finds this effort about on par with O.J.'s 
     looking for his wife's killer. But there may be a difference: 
     Unless the members of the Administration can find someone 
     else to blame--informants, surveillance technology, lower-
     level personnel, you name it--they may not escape fault 
       Congressional committees are also looking into the pre-war 
     intelligence collection and evaluation. Senator John Warner 
     (R-VA), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said 
     his committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee would 
     jointly investigate the situation. And the House Permanent 
     Select Committee on Intelligence plans an investigation.
       These investigations are certainly appropriate, for there 
     is potent evidence of either a colossal intelligence failure 
     or misconduct--and either would be a serious problem. When 
     the best case scenario seems to be mere incompetence, 
     investigations certainly need to be made.
       Senator Bob Graham--a former chairman of the Senate 
     Intelligence Committee--told CNN's Aaron Brown, that while he 
     still hopes they find WMDs or at least evidence thereof, he 
     has also contemplated three other possible alternative 
     scenarios: ``One is that [the WMDs] were spirited out of 
     Iraq, which maybe is the worst of all possibilities, because 
     now the very thing that we were trying to avoid, 
     proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, could be in the 
     hands of dozens of groups. Second, that we had bad 
     intelligence. Or third, that the intelligence was 
     satisfactory but that it was manipulated, so as just to 
     present to the American people and to the world those things 
     that made the case for the necessity of war against Iraq.''
       Senator Graham seems to believe there is a serious chance 
     that it is the final scenario that reflects reality. Indeed, 
     Graham told CNN ``there's been a pattern of manipulation by 
     this administration.''
       Graham has good reason to complain. According to the New 
     York Times, he was one of the few members of the Senate who 
     saw the national intelligence estimate that was the basis for 
     Bush's decisions. After reviewing it, Senator Graham 
     requested that the Bush Administration declassify the 
     information before the Senate voted on the Administration's 
     resolution requesting use of the military in Iraq.
       But rather than do so, CIA Director Tenet merely sent 
     Graham a letter discussing the findings. Graham then 
     complained that Tenet's letter only addressed ``findings that 
     supported the administration's position on Iraq,'' and 
     ignored information that raised questions about intelligence. 
     In short, Graham suggested that the Administration, by 
     cherrypicking only evidence to its own liking, had 
     manipulated the information to support its conclusion.
       Recent statements by one of the high-level officials privy 
     to the decisionmaking process that lead to the Iraqi war also 
     strongly suggests manipulation, if not misuse of the 
     intelligence agencies. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul 
     Wolfowitz, during an interview with Sam Tannenhaus of Vanity 
     Fair magazine, said: ``The truth is that for reasons that 
     have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we 
     settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which 
     was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason.'' More 
     recently, Wolfowitz added what most have believed all along, 
     that the reason we went after Iraq is that ``[t]he country 
     swims on a sea of oil.''

   worse than watergate? a potential huge scandal if wmds are still 

       Krugman is right to suggest a possible comparison to 
     Watergate. In the three decades since Watergate, this is the 
     first potential scandal I have seen that could make Watergate 
     pale by comparison. If the Bush Administration intentionally 
     manipulated or misrepresented intelligence to get Congress to 
     authorize, and the public to support, military action to take 
     control of Iraq, then that would be a monstrous misdeed.
       As I remarked in an earlier column, this Administration may 
     be due for a scandal. While Bush narrowly escaped being 
     dragged into Enron, it was not, in any event, his doing. But 
     the war in Iraq is all Bush's doing, and it is appropriate 
     that he be held accountable.
       To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the 
     nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. 
     Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security 
     intelligence data, if proven, could be ``a high crime'' under 
     the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a 
     violation of federal criminal law, including the broad 
     federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony 
     ``to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any 
     manner or for any purpose.''
       It's important to recall that when Richard Nixon resigned, 
     he was about to be impeached by the House of Representatives 
     for misusing the CIA and FBI. After Watergate, all presidents 
     are on notice that manipulating or misusing any agency of the 
     executive branch improperly is a serious abuse of 
     presidential power.
       Nixon claimed that his misuses of the federal agencies for 
     his political purposes were in the interest of national 
     security. The same kind of thinking might lead a President to 
     manipulate and misuse national security agencies or their 
     intelligence to create a phony reason to lead the national 
     into a politically desirable war. Let us hope that is not the